In Which I Ask You For Help (and may I say, you are looking LOVELY today).

Alright everyone, I need your help.

Whew. Well.  There’s something I don’t say every day (though I really, really ought to. Who doesn’t need a little help sometimes/always?).

I have a goal for this blog. I do.  I have an agenda, like anyone else. It’s written at the very top, full disclosure style, and it’s pretty straight forward: Keep it real.

Leave the judgement at the door; Keep those brainwaves flowing; Express yourself before you wreck yourself.

A lot of you agree with this goal (or you just like to read, or you’re interested in seeing the world through someone else’s eyes). I am even more convinced of this after seeing the overwhelming response to the Taboo Tab:  over 100 Facebook shares and interactions.  Thousands of hits.  Emails in my inbox confirming just how many people felt/cried/laughed alongside the contributors, and had that same profound response: “Wow, that’s so me,” or “Wow, that’s so someone else. And I get them now.

We ought to keep this going, don’t you think?  Keep it going for the people who need to know they aren’t alone. For the teachers bringing the Taboo Tab into their classrooms, showing the next generation what happens when creative writing meets community meets compassion.  Ministers sharing the series with their affiliates, and considering it as they provide guidance during life’s most pivotal moments.

This is working. The Taboo Tab is working. We are learning about each other. We are hearing each other. Finally, finally, finally.

To keep it going, however, I need your help (and no, I am not asking for money. Just a couple minutes of your time &  talent.):

This is what me needing your help looks like.  Click the picture to support!
This is what me needing your help looks like. Yes, all I need is for you to click a button. Easy, right?

Firstly, I am seeking contributors for the next Taboo Tab.  The subject is “Sex, Lies, and, Storytime.”  I want to hear your story, if you’re willing to share. I can’t publish everything, but I am looking for a diverse and powerful group of stories that together show the complexity, diversity, and experiences of judgement in the challenging area of sexuality.

Why does this fit on the Taboo Tab?  Admittedly, sex is everywhere. We talk about it all the time. The problem is that we rarely discuss it in real, human terms. Conversations about sexuality aren’t always sensitive to the diversity of emotionally loaded experiences, of decisions made, of confusion felt.  And how can they be, if we never hear stories which differ from our own?

I know this resonates with people, and am excited to go all out in addressing it.  We’ll do it together, just as we did with Death and Grieving a few weeks ago.

Submit to the Taboo Tab here: https://shaunanagins.com/the-taboo-tab/

Secondly, I really need your vote for my Community Achievement Award/scholarship nomination.  This award recognizes Canadian young people who use media to support and bring together their communities in a creative way.  If that sounds like what you see happening here, I urge you to take a minute to show your support: sign on, and click “Support this Nomination” on the CampusPerks website: http://awards.campusperks.ca/en/entries/czr6u . Leave a note about your personal experience of the project if you would like.

The minute you take to lend your support means so, so much to me.

Okay. I did it. I asked for help.  The Taboo Tab and shaunanagins.com is a big project, and I am forever grateful for your readership, you comments, your contributions, your emails, and your openness.

And yes, I have a real-deal post coming for you tomorrow. Much love.

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Because Sometimes, Google Searches Get Real

I have this mildly unhealthy habit of checking my blog stats WAY. Too. Often.  Thankfully, WordPress only gives me really basic information–I steer clear of Google Analytics, since the geographic detail feels a bit too creepy.  Here, I just get the basics: I can see what different countries readers are coming from (‘sup, Yemen?), and I can see how they’re getting here. Usually, people find the blog via social media like Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes, Stumbleupon points people my way. Mentions or comments on other blogs can also spur a few hits.

And a few times each day, someone finds my blog through a Google search.

The search terms are usually predictable enough: “Things to do in Ottawa,” “Blackboard wall,” “Stocking stuffers that give to charity,”…you know, straight-forward subjects directly related to blog entries.  Every now and then, though, I see a search term that makes me FEEL THINGS.

These search terms are the desperate, doomed-from-the-start pleads to the internet for guidance.  These searches come from the same place that bring us 11:11 wishes, untimely text messages, bad “poetry,” and worse habits.  There’s a knot in someone’s soul and they can’t massage it out.  The default solution? ‘Maybe, just maybe, Google knows.’ 

And then, if they find my blog, a ‘Maybe, just maybe, this Shaunanagins website knows.’

Full disclosure: I have totally been that person, sitting alone and unsure of something (everything?) at approximately 3 o’clock in the morning.  I will shamelessly admit that I have turned to Google for validation, or just a gentle reminder that it’s allllll good.

“Coping with stress”
“How long does it take to get over [thing I am under]?”
“How to deal with learning curves
“What is good about being single?”
“a;gnfdbldfkb mdfl;vdf”
“Plane tickets to Seattle.”

(No, I’ve never been to Seattle.  The alone/unsure/3 am combo sometimes ends in weird places.)

It is this past experience in the field of “Well, shit.  Life. I guess I’ll just Google it?”  that makes me FEEL THINGS when I see search terms designed to…massage out those soul-knots.  This month, two such search terms really stuck with me:

“i can never relax. what do i do?”
and
“don’t exactly know where home is”

Heavy.   I feel you, Person A.  As for Person B…I have so much to say on that topic, it’s a little ridiculous. All I can say for right now is that I feel you, too. Or at least, I felt you for awhile.

Dear Person A,

In response to your search i can never relax. what do i do?” : Dude.  I wish I knew.  I guess turning off your computer would be a good start.  Maybe drink tea and do a puzzle?  Or go to a used CD store, pick up some new music, and put it on.  Close your eyes and listen.  Or, hey, just read. Maybe read a blog. Maybe this blog, brought to you by another person who can’t relax.

That totally killed my “Turn off your computer” thing, didn’t it?

Dear Person B,

You told Google that you “don’t exactly know where home is.”  My response to this could, and should, be a full blog entry.  It should be a series of blog entries. What I can say in short right now is that Home is the place where things grow. It’s the place where you grow. And sometimes, growing can be uncomfortable. So, sometimes, Home can be uncomfortable. But if it’s safe and loving, if whatever needs nurtured is being nurtured, you’re on the right track.

Oh, and Home doesn’t have to be a geographical Place. It can be a person, or an attitude. And if you get spiritual, that there’s a whole new dimension to the concept of Home.  But for now, just focus on finding a safe spot, geographical or otherwise, that has positive energy.  A Place that you can move and shake in.  Do not worry if, while moving and shaking, you stumble away from that Place for awhile. A life well lived will always bring you back Home eventually.

Okay, I feel so much better now.  I know Person A and Person B will probably not be back to this blog, but maybe other people with similar pleads to the internet will.  And maybe they will also be able to help me learn how to relax, or figure out where home is. Because we’re all just floating, you guys. And we’re all alright.

Yeah.

“Coming In Out of the Blue”: Resources for Those Who Find the Holidays Hard

The holidays aren’t fun for everyone.  For many, Christmas season brings heightened instances of depression, stress, or anxiety.  It can also be a particularly difficult time for those who are grieving.  Here are some (Ottawa-based) events, resources, and articles to help support people struggling with mental health or grief this holiday season.  Please let me know if you have anything to add to this list, and share it around–no one should feel alone.

December 18:  The Royal mental health care & research centre is offering a “Coping Through the Holidays” support group for families touched by mental health during the holidays. 6:00 to 7:30 pm at The Royal, 1145 Carling Avenue, Room 1420.

December 20: Coming in Out of the Blue” service at MacKay United, a quiet Christmas service for those who find the holidays difficult.

Anytime Resources:
– Free meditation groups are offered all over the city (and country, and world)
– Churches are usually full at this time of year, and worth visiting for a bit of peace and community
Similarly, the Chaplain’s Office at the Ottawa Mission is popular for those going through especially hard times
– If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the Mental health crisis line at 613-722-6914 (toll free from anywhere: 1-866-996-0991)

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[photo by Samantha Polzin]

Articles:
Surviving the Holidays  – Full website designed for those grieving during the holidays, via GriefShare

How to Help Ourselves Through the HolidaysFor those grieving a loss during the holidays, under “Articles,” via Bereaved Families

Fact Sheet on Holiday Stress
For those feeling overwhlemed, via Canadian Psychological Association

Stress, depression, and the holidays: Tips for coping
via Mayo Clinic

Holiday Grieving: How to Best Support the Mourning this Time of the YearFor family/friends of those grieving over the holidays. Rule #1: Listen. via Dr. Cara Baker

Partying Hard and Loving Harder: How hanging out can help the community

On Saturday morning, I woke up to snow on the ground. My feelings about this were mixed, as always, but two things were fully certain: 1) I needed to celebrate this; 2) My Facebook friends get WAY too worked up over precipitation.

In my own overzealous logic, I decided that this snowfall called for an urgent, impromptu pre-Christmas party. Where? My place. When? NOW. The decorations are coming out, ladies and gentlemen.

I searched high and low for the perfect cheese fondu and hors d’oeuvres to compliment this fluorescent…thing from the 80s. It was a serious, serious mission.
Also a serious, serious mission.

This got me thinking. As crazy as the work/school side of December is, we all know that it is ultimately a friends & family time of year. We’re going to hang out. We’re going to eat, drink, and be merry. So why not do the kind of partying that makes a positive impact in the community?

Turns out, there are several incredible ways to do just that–all it takes is a little creativity and pre-planning. Here are some of my favourites:

Hosting for Hope. If Chatelaine magazine and Homesense get together to advocate something, I take note. That’s how I learned of Hosting for Hope, a program which invites people to throw beautiful seasonal get-togethers (awesome) while supporting local shelters for battered women (double awesome). If you plan on hosting a holiday party, why not sign up? A $50 donation through Hosting for Hope will get you a $25 Homesense gift card, and after asking guests to donate in lieu of a hostess gift–tada! Your party just made a huge difference in someone’s life. Triple awesome.

The Mitten Tree. The church I attend, Mackay United, has been collecting mittens and scarves for un-mittened/un-scarved folks in the community with a mitten tree. When I mentioned it to a friend of mine who knits, she suggested we get together to make some warm clothing to donate. I’ll pass her idea on as a challenge to you: if you know how to knit, and your friends know how to knit, then just skip the lame coffee date and have a knitting date instead.When you’re done, you can donate your creations to organizations that keep people warm.

Blood Donation Party. I actually know someone who did this every year, and it worked out quite nicely. Before throwing a holiday party to see old friends, he invited people to come to the blood donor clinic. This was a tradition, the same time every year, so people could count on making the appointments together (with some new faces every year, of course!). Those who were able to give blood could catch up with each other while they joined together to give the gift of life.

Christmas Hampers Project. Centretown United makes hampers to provide necessities for less fortunate families in Ottawa, “Because some holiday wish lists are more basic than others.” Apply to adopt a hamper by November 30th, or get some friends together to donate your time. The project needs volunteers for packing hampers from December 17th-20th and delivering them on the 21st. Get more information here.

Food Bank Events. The holidays are a big time of year for the Food Banks around the country. There are several different events in support of the Ottawa Food Bank that you can check out for a night out this season, like the Hintonburg Public House Holiday Fundraiser or the Santa’s Souper Singers concert. Food bank events for the city are listed here.

Spread Some Joy. One of my best Christmas memories is of visiting a local senior’s home with my girl guide troupe, armed only with homemade cookies and badly sung Christmas carol renditions. Homes like St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa are often looking for people to come in and keep residents entertained and smiling. If you and a friend like playing board games or cards anyways, why not bring your hobby to a retirement home? Who better to include in good times than our senior citizens?

Running on Empties. December 15th marks the 25th annual Running on Empties fundraiser! The Christmas Exchange program will have volunteers posted outside of every beer store until 5:30. You can sign up to be one of these volunteers, or take a moment to bring in those empty bottles (say, the ones left over from your Hosting for Hope party!) to help them reach this year’s $20,000 goal!

Alright readers–now it’s your turn to let me know what you plan on doing to hang out/help out this year! Any of these ideas strike your interest? Anything I’ve missed? Keep the conversation going in the comments, on my page at www.facebook.com/Shaunanagins, or Follow my blog with Bloglovin. When it comes to partying hard and loving even harder, there are never too many great ideas.

Special thanks to Sam Polzin for providing the photography in this post. Look forward to seeing some more of her work in weeks to come!